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Why I love being a Sheffield Vulcan: Jon’s Story

With us unable to train at home up at Sheffield Tigers RUFC as a single unit, the Sheffield Vulcans haven’t let the lockdown dampen our team spirit. We’re still working on our fitness by running drills in pods of six around the steel city making sure we’re ready for the upcoming season. So, as we continue training under RFU guidelines, we want to share with you why we love being a member of the Sheffield Vulcans.

That’s why we’ve reached out to a few of our players and asked them to share their story with you about their personal experiences of being a member of the Sheffield Vulcans. We asked them about how they came to know about the club, why they joined the team and what advice they have for individuals interested in playing rugby.

This is Jon Dickinson’s story…

Jon DickinsonI’ve never been one for sports but after clocking in at almost thirty stone at my heaviest, I have been on a fitness journey over the last two years in pursuit of mental and physical well-being. It began when my GP decided to check my HbA1c levels after experiencing a number of symptoms such as low energy levels and an increased thirst. So If you know what that means you can probably guess where this is going…

After being called back to receive my results it was confirmed that my blood glucose level was dangerously high. Although it wasn’t enough to be considered Diabetic, I was diagnosed as Pre-Diabetic and at a high risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. I was basically told that if I didn’t immediately change the path I was on then things will only get worse and that’s when my GP went into a tirade of what could happen to my body. It was at that moment that the fear of god was put into me and from that day that I vowed to make a change. A change that would set me on to a new and exciting adventure.

So, with the days of spending hours on end watching films behind me, I used NHS resources to build a healthier relationship with food and forced myself to become more active by walking long distances twice a week. I even booked a holiday to Florida to keep me focused on losing weight because I knew the fear of doing the walk of shame after not being able to fit on the rides would be enough to keep my urges to binge in check. That said, it’s easier said than done but I was determined to do everything within my power to reverse the diagnosis and after 9 months of continual hard work and dedication, I was successful.

Having improved my overall fitness, shifting six stone in weight and reversing my Pre-Diabetic diagnosis, I was looking for a new way to keep fit and that’s when I discovered the Vulcans. I saw a post on Facebook promoting the Sheffield Vulcan’s after pride party. Unaware of who the Vulcans were prior to that I checked out their page to discover they were a local inclusive rugby team and that a few members team were hosting a stall at Sheffield Pride. It was a shame that the event was completely rained out. As I was making my way to the park I full on decked it after slipping in the mud and I didn’t want that to be my first impression so to save myself embarrassment I returned home feeling incredibly red-faced.

That night I decided to attend the Vulcan’s After Pride party on my own. It was at that point that I saw an old work colleague of mine and she introduced me to her fiancé Michael Callaghan and he was the first Vulcan I spoke to. He introduced me to Craig Waterhouse and they took the time to listen and answer my questions. I explained my concerns on never playing any sports previously and was assured that as an IGR team the Vulcans were a very supportive team and they’d love to see me attend training and that started my journey.

I’ll always remember my first training session with the Vulcans. I knew that unless I applied myself 100% I was not going to commit so I invested in a full Rugby kit and set off to join the first welcome session at Endcliffe Park. It was at that moment that the heavens opened and it rained so hard that I actually thought training wouldn’t take place. Nonetheless I persevered to Endcliffe with the idea that if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to go back. I was the first to arrive so I changed into my new rugby boots and waited patiently. One by one the team begun to arrive and that’s when I took my first steps onto the field.

I remember having enjoyed the first welcoming session. Sure, I felt out of my depth but there was no denying how much I was made to feel welcome. In fact, during that session, fellow Vulcans Chris Moore and Richard Mather took me under their wing and took time to explain what was happening play-by-play and it was because of this that I attended the second training session taking a couple of days later. My first week was rounded off with my first team social and my future with the Vulcans was set in stone.

I have come a long way thanks to my fellow Vulcan brothers. I’ve played several games and fallen in love with a sport that’s right for me. I have even been fortunate to be awarded Forward of the Match in my debut game against Hull Roundheads and I have recently joined the Sheffield Vulcan committee where I am responsible for the club’s social media platforms. So, if you had told me two years ago that this is where I was going to be today, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Sheffield Vulcans 2019

Jon’s advice for individuals wanting to play rugby:

Playing Rugby Union has given me the confidence to believe in myself and value my own ability. Sure, it was scary to join a group of talented amateur rugby players but the benefits outweighed the fear in every category. Joining the Vulcans has not only improved my fitness levels but it has changed me forever. Without sounding too dramatic joining the Sheffield Vulcans has saved my life. So if you want my advice I urge anyone who has even the smallest interest in playing the sport to try it (pun intended). I did and have never looked back.

If you want to know more about the Sheffield Vulcans or you are interested in joining us at our next available training session you can join our Facebook group here or you can click here to register as a Vulcan.

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Lets Tackle the Stigma of Mental Health

As Sheffield Vulcans we believe that mental health is just as important as physical health. Mental health is important. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress on and off the pitch and how we make decisions. That’s why we stand together as a club to provide a warm and welcoming environment where everyone feels valued.

We are delighted to be in partnership with LooseHeadz, the rugby leisurewear brand stocking high-quality workout gear from sizes Small to 4XL whose aim is to tackle the stigma of mental health in rugby. With every purchase made via their website, the LooseHeadz Foundation with the help of Team Mental Health, are funding events and initiatives to rugby players at every level of the game, aimed at opening up the conversation around mental health.

Every penny that goes into the LooseHeadz Foundation is used to tackle the stigma of mental health in sport and we’re excited to offer our amazing players, members and supporters of our club 15% off any purchase of LooseHeadz gear. Head over to their website www.looseheadz.co.uk and use the code “SheffVulcans” at checkout.

By choosing LooseHeadz, not only will you be helping to tackle the stigma of mental health but you will be supporting us as well. Let’s work together to make the conversation about mental health be as normal as one about any physical injury or ailment.

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Why I love being a Sheffield Vulcan: Andrew’s Story

With us unable to train at home up at Sheffield Tigers RUFC as a single unit, the Sheffield Vulcans haven’t let the lockdown dampen our team spirit. We’re still working on our fitness by running drills in pods of six around the steel city making sure we’re ready for the upcoming season. So, as we continue training under RFU guidelines, we want to share with you why we love being a member of the Sheffield Vulcans.

That’s why we’ve reached out to a few of our players and asked them to share their story with you about their personal experiences of being a member of the Sheffield Vulcans. We asked them about how they came to know about the club, why they joined the team and what advice they have for individuals interested in playing rugby.

This is Andrew Gibson’s story…

Andrew Gibson

I  hadn’t ever considered that rugby could be a sport for me; I’m not in any way athletic and did not enjoy PE or sport when I was at school.  After discovering the Vulcans through social media, I popped along to a training session with a friend who was wanting to join and after spending a few weeks of watching from the edge of the field, I thought I could give it a go so I did. Talking to the Chairperson at the time, he persuaded me to give it a try (pun?), but I waited a few months until the end of July when the “Welcome Week” sessions were being run.

I was nervous to start, I felt like I was always falling over my own shadow all the time, but working with the team had a very surprising effect. Not only did it improve my physical abilities proving to myself I could do more than I suspected but it has improved my confidence as well as my mental health which is just as important to me.

Everyone on the team is extremely supportive, and they are now like an extended family. If you struggle with a skill, you can always approach one of the more experienced players and they will help you improve, breaking it down in a way that you understand.

Initially, I was only going to join for non-contact rugby, but as I have gone along I have found the confidence to play full games too. Joining the Vulcans has most definitely changed my life and my outlook on sports.

Recently, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the team have all rallied around each other, and aside from our online quiz nights, we are all there on the other end of the phone for each other, whether it be for a chat or to offer support, even to pop to the supermarket if we were isolating!

Andrew’s advice for individuals wanting to play rugby:

Don’t feel pressured into it if you’re new, take it at your own pace. That’s what the Vulcans did for me and that’s why I am still a member today.

We’d like to thank Andrew for his time and for sharing his story.

If you want to know more about the Sheffield Vulcans or you are interested in joining us at our next available training session you can join our Facebook group here or you can click here to register as a Vulcan.

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Why I love being a Sheffield Vulcan: Charlie’s Story

With us unable to train at home up at Sheffield Tigers RUFC as a single unit, the Sheffield Vulcans haven’t let the lockdown dampen our team spirit. We’re still working on our fitness by running drills in pods of six around the steel city making sure we’re ready for the upcoming season. So, as we continue training under RFU guidelines, we want to share with you why we love being a member of the Sheffield Vulcans.

That’s why we’ve reached out to a few of our players and asked them to share their story with you about their personal experiences of being a member of the Sheffield Vulcans. We asked them about how they came to know about the club, why they joined the team and what advice they have for individuals interested in playing rugby.

This is Charlie Winterburn’s story…

Charlie Winterburn

I first found out about the Vulcans on social media. After telling myself I’d go to a session for a few months I finally decided to go down to Endcliffe Park to give it a go back in October. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time.​ ​

I’d played rugby as a kid all the way up to coming to Sheffield to study archaeology (the Vulcans name took me an embarrassingly long time to get though!). Even though it took until my third year of uni to join and I hadn’t played for a few years, rugby had still been a part of my life. The glory and beauty of the Six Nations every winter; I remember taking non-rugby friends to the pub to watch Wales thrash England (as one of the only Welsh supporters in the pub) and it was amazing.​

I wanted to join a club that would be welcoming and supportive and finally decided to try the Vulcans out for myself. Growing up I played all over the park, but mostly in the front row. After a few years I was forced further away from the scrums and more towards the backs. At the Vulcans my lack of dedicated knowledge for a single position isn’t a limiting factor, although I physically can’t play in the forwards (well I could at 70kgs but it wouldn’t be easy!); the Vulcans are a team of many strengths and there’s no such thing as not being “good enough” only that you try your best.​

Charlie’s advice for individuals wanting to play rugby:

For anyone considering joining, no matter your ability, just do it, just reach out and you’ll be on the pitch in no time having a laugh.

We’d like to thank Charlie for his time and we won’t hold it against you for wearing a league shirt.

If you want to know more about the Sheffield Vulcans or you are interested in joining us at our next available training session you can join our Facebook group here or you can click here to register as a Vulcan.

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Sheffield Vulcans Recommend: Pre-Training Meals

As Sheffield’s first LGBTQ inclusive Rugby team we pride ourselves on being a squad made up of athletes who come from a wide range of ability, fitness and experience. Always looking for ways to improve our performance our team of coaches heartily encourage our members to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

However, in today’s new world forged by Covid-19, it is often difficult to keep on the straight and narrow when it comes to nutrition. Sure, lockdown rules have been relaxed and we can do as much exercise as we want out doors but it also means that temptation of grabbing something quick and easy is even more present now the golden arches have opened their drive through and delivery services.

We’re not worried too much though because tonight marks the restart of our training sessions. That’s right, keeping in-line with the recommended government guidelines our team has been split into squads of six who will work together to complete HIIT sessions developed to help improve our fitness during pre-season ready for when the season begins (whenever that may be).

With training starting again the team have been thinking about how we each treat our bodies. We’ve already been encouraging one another to remain active during lockdown thanks to our weekly Strava challenge but it’s just as important to take note of our nutrition as well. Good nutrition is vital for exercise and performance and can help recover faster after each workout. It’s equally as important to think about the timing of your pre-workout meal too. That’s why it comes highly recommended to try and eat a complete meal containing carbs, protein and fat at least 2 hours before you exercise as this will help prevent any stomach discomfort during exercise.

Ahead of tonight’s training we turned to our committee to see what their go to pre-training meal and here is are a few of their recommendations:

If your training starts within 3 hours:

Our club President Michael Hudson recommends something quick and easy to prepare. That’s why he swears by enjoying a meal of chicken and rice/pasta a few hours before training. Protein, carbs… simple!

As an alternative suggestion, our very own Matt Clark recommends fajitas made with lean protein, brown rice and roasted vegetables.

If your training starts within 2 hours:

Our Social Secretary Tibble Smith knows how to keep it light and recommends enjoying some toast with butter (and jam if he’s feeling a little naughty).

As an alternative suggestion, you could enjoy a bowl of whole-grain cereal and milk.

If training starts within an hour:

Our club Chair Glenn Allen and our very own Jude Berry recommend enjoying a piece of fruit, such as a banana or an apple.

As an alternative suggestion you could enjoy a nutrition bar with protein and wholesome ingredients.

That concludes our recommendations for pre-training fuel and we hope you found it useful. Remember at the end of the day improving your pre-training nutrition can go a long way in helping you perform better and recover faster as an athlete. But before you go, remember that your body also needs water to function so it is important that you maintain good hydration habits as well.

Thanks for reading.

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Sheffield Vulcans Recommend: Podcasts Vol. 1

The Sheffield Vulcans have been taking part in a weekly Strava challenge that has seen the team working together to reach a set distance. For the last three week’s we’ve constantly smashed every target set and we’re on track for beating it for the fourth week in a row.

Inspired by the appearance of our very own Michael Hudson on episode 2 of the Ruck My Life Podcast, a podcast dedicated to exploring what life is like for the LGBTQ+ community in sport, we reached out to the team to see what podcasts they’ve been listening to whilst taking part in our Strava challenge.

Kicking off our list of recommendations is the House of Rugby, a podcast that takes its listeners right to the heart action with big name interviews and delving into the big issues in the game. Presented by Alex Payne and James Haskell, House of Rugby is a casual yet informative podcast released every Wednesday to provide listeners with a breakdown of the news in rugby union.
Rec by Charlie Prior-Mills & Chris Moore

Do you like Music? Do you like taking part in Quizzes? If you answered yes to both then you should check out the PopMaster podcast. Presented by BBC 2’s Ken Bruce, PopMaster invites listeners to take part in his tricky music quiz. There are over 27 episodes for you to check out which provides hours of fun for listeners to enjoy!
Rec by Glenn Allen

If you love to laugh then Shagged. Married. Annoyed. is for you. Chris Ramsey and his wife going through letters from the public and discuss how things are in the world. Very relatable and extremely hilarious, there are over 65 episodes to check out. So, if you’re looking for something to put a smile on your face during lockdown this show will provide plenty of laugh out loud moments!
Rec by Andrew Gibson

Three friends read the erotic fiction written by one of their dads who knows almost nothing about sex, anatomy, or storytelling in the smash hit podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno. Certainly one of those you have to hear it to believe it experiences, My Dad… is praised highly by multiple Vulcans as one of the best podcasts they’ve ever listened to!
Rec by Joel Walker & Matthew Buckingham

Next up is Athletico Mince, a British comedy podcast hosted by Bob Mortimer and Andy Dawson. The football podcast that no one wanted features discussions about football and whether being gentle in the Premier League makes one a better manager. It’s not for everyone but if you’re into your football and you’re a comedy fan then this is the mash up for you.
Rec by Chris Moore

Fancy a dive into the world of conspiracy theories? Those Conspiracy Guys is an Irish comedy podcast that discusses pretty much everything from paranormal happenings and true crime right through to aliens and werewolves. No topic is too delicate or outlandish, the team go above and beyond to provide listeners with plenty of waffle as the show dissects the misinformation out in the world.
Rec by Archive Irving

Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness podcast sees the bubbly and fast paced thought process of JVN take listeners on a rollercoaster for 45 minutes as he asks questions of all varieties to experts across the world. Get better understanding of complex issues, learn things you never knew, and learn more about the work of celebrities and activists from across the globe. There’s something for everyone and you’re guaranteed to learn something new whilst doing it.
Rec by Michael Hudson

If you’re a fan of Ru Paul’s Drag Race then you’ll want to check out Race Chaser with Alaska and Willam. Entertaining and insightful, the show recaps every episode and dives deep to provide listeners with gossip about what was really going on behind the scenes. Covering every season of Drag Race, All-Stars and Drag Race UK, Race Chaser is the best podcast to listen to if you’re a fan of the show.
Rec by Daniel Jenkinson

If you’re a fan of horror then you should check out the Tales from Beyond the Pale podcast. Hosted and curated by filmmakers Larry Fessenden (Depraved) and Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead), this award-winning series treats listeners to half-hour tales ranging from the gently macabre to the genuinely gruesome. With over 30 episodes currently available, this show is guaranteed to send icy chills down your spine… if you’re brave enough to listen.
Rec by Jon Dickinson

Andy Goode, Big Jim Hamilton & Andy Rowe have a real treat for Rugby fans in The Ruby Pod. From covering the latest news with plenty of laughs and opinions without taking themselves too seriously, The Rugby Pod is made for fans, by fans and exists as a fully interactive platform where listeners are invited to get in touch with funny stories, questions or opinions via social media.
Rec by Charlie Prior-Mills & Chris Moore

Let’s finish off this round of podcast recommendations by mentioning the excellent Ruck My Life podcast again. Presented by CJ who plays for the Village Spartans, Ruck My Life continues to grow as a very informative podcast featuring guest appearances from IGR players around the world to give an insight into their experiences as a LGBT player in a sports team. Please show it your support by checking it out.

All the shows listed above are available where all good podcasts are available.

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How We’re Maintaining Fitness During Lockdown

Since the lockdown began the Sheffield Vulcans have had plenty of downtime since the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic sunk its nails deep into the flesh of this planet. Not only were our Tuesday night training sessions suspended indefinitely, but the government only allowed us to leave our homes once a day initially, restricting the amount of exercise we could do outside of our homes.

Thankfully, this didn’t stop the Vulcans from working on our fitness. Every Tuesday for the past nine weeks we’ve been taking part in remote HIIT sessions delivered by the fantastic Analise Moran from Moran Personal Training. Taking to our bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms and gardens, we’ve been squatting, planking, and becoming sweaty messes with the goal of maintaining our fitness.

In addition to this our very own Liam Goodwin came up with a solution to keep the team engaged between HIIT sessions by using Strava, a popular fitness tracking app. Liam noticed that a few of the team were already on there tracking workouts during lockdown in an effort to remain active and sane. Other rugby and sports clubs had set themselves up on Strava and we thought it was a great idea, so got Sheffield Vulcans set-up and encouraged the team to get involved in weekly distance challenges.

The first week had a positive response with roughly half of the club signing up to take on 100km, which we had exceeded by Wednesday. As a result the target was doubled, and by the end of the week the team flew past the revised target with an incredible distance of 287km. This was mirrored by the results of the second week which saw the Vulcans smash the 300km target with 433km in total.

During this time Liam saw a growth in interest amongst the team thanks in part to the weekly leader board and results, adding friendly competition into the mix. Some eager beavers have been getting out multiple times a day with an eye on the top three spots, whilst others are happy doing their own thing pushing themselves individually. Being an inclusive team consisting of people of all ages and ability, we ensured the challenge allowed members to walk, run or cycle any distance they felt comfortable with. Furthermore, the challenge has provided the perfect opportunity for some of our Vulcans to spend time with one another (within government guidelines of course).

Recently, we’ve celebrated our third weekly result and managed to complete a collective distance of 602.31km, which is the equivalent of running from Plymouth to Middlesbrough. Each week the target grows, and we’ve now added an extra mini-challenge for all members to complete a minimum 10km distance across the week.

On reflection, we can’t thank Liam and Analise enough keeping us Vulcans engaged and motivated to keep our fitness up. The benefits of taking on these challenges have helped us to work together, motivate one another, and ultimately bring us closer together as a team even though we’re physically far apart. We know one day the lockdown will end and we will all return to Sheffield Tigers to continue our training ready for next season. Until then, the team will continue to support one another and smash our weekly targets.

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Captain’s Log – The importance of self care during lockdown

Captain, Innes MacLeod has a message to share about the importance of self care and why lockdown isn’t stopping him from looking forward.

During the lockdown it is important to think about being kind to yourself. That can mean different things to different people. Whether it’s indulging your sweet tooth, getting an extra hour’s sleep or simply grabbing 5 minutes of quiet time in a busy household. Over the past few weeks I have been increasingly thinking about how the way I treat myself, physically and mentally, has been restricted and the efforts I can make to find space and time for this.

We are being bombarded with the truism that the current restrictions are damaging for our mental and physical health. This is something I have been feeling keenly recently. Under normal circumstances I would spend an evening or two a week with my fellow Vulcans. As you might expect of any IGR club the Vulcans provide a fantastic community feeling which I am sorely missing. In addition, the routine and physical exertion of training has been hugely beneficial to my mental health and being apart from this has had its impact.

As a club we have tried to be innovative and have introduced zoom training sessions. For an hour a week we get together and squat, jump and stretch from our respective bedrooms, living rooms and gardens. While for some this might sound less than fun the return of routine, the ability to see my friends and the physical benefits have helped enormously with the challenge of lockdown. The benefit of regular exercise on mental health is by no means a silver bullet but is well accepted and I find it a useful tool for keeping my spirits up through this time.

Weekly high intensity exercise may sound like the opposite of being kind to yourself to some and as someone who always preferred the pie and chips after playing rugby than the game itself I can sympathise. Finding something that is accessible, enjoyable and fits in with your day to day can be hard. Even making time for a short walk every day has been hugely beneficial for me. With the streets and parks being relatively quiet I find this not only good exercise but a good time to clear my head of the busyness of work and the often gloomy daily news. An important aspect of mindfulness is bringing yourself into the present moment and being more aware of your body and surroundings. A quiet walk is often a great opportunity to do this. I’ve started noticing new buildings and great views of the city from the streets around my flat. These moments give me time to reflect and leave me feeling more positive and able to take on the day.

This is what works for me but it is important to find what works for you whether it’s yoga, chairobics, running or following the lead of my partner and buying an inflatable kayak to take up the local canal. Making time to be kind to your body and mind can help you through the lockdown.

Want to learn more about the Sheffield Vulcans’ plans for the 2019/2020 season? Get in touch today by emailing committee@sheffieldvulcans.com

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How the Sheffield Vulcans helped heal my relationship with straight men

Archie shares his experience about growing up surrounded by women, his taut relationship with straight men, and how joining an inclusive Rugby team has helped him heal old wounds, and create new amazing relationships!

“I grew up in a household with 5 women. I had 4 older sisters and my mom. Then along came my sister’s girl-friends, my aunties and more! I was surrounded by women, all the time, which meant that I found it more comfortable to be around women as that’s all I knew. My closest friends have always been girls throughout primary school, secondary school, college and so on. This wasn’t just because of familiarity, it was also because for most of my life I’ve feared straight men.”

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